Book XIII - Chapter X
A chapter which, though short, may draw tears from some eyes.
Mr Jones was just dressed to wait on Lady Bellaston, when Mrs Miller rapped at his door; and, being admitted, very earnestly desired his company below-stairs, to drink tea in the parlour.
Upon his entrance into the room, she presently introduced a person to him, saying, "This, sir, is my cousin, who hath been so greatly beholden to your goodness, for which he begs to return you his sincerest thanks."
The man had scarce entered upon that speech which Mrs Miller had so kindly prefaced, when both Jones and he, looking stedfastly at each other, showed at once the utmost tokens of surprize. The voice of the latter began instantly to faulter; and, instead of finishing his speech, he sunk down into a chair, crying, "It is so, I am convinced it is so!"
"Bless me! what's the meaning of this?" cries Mrs Miller; "you are not ill, I hope, cousin? Some water, a dram this instant."
"Be not frighted, madam," cries Jones, "I have almost as much need of a dram as your cousin. We are equally surprized at this unexpected meeting. Your cousin is an acquaintance of mine, Mrs Miller."
"An acquaintance!" cries the man.--"Oh, heaven!"
"Ay, an acquaintance," repeated Jones, "and an honoured acquaintance too. When I do not love and honour the man who dares venture everything to preserve his wife and children from instant destruction, may I have a friend capable of disowning me in adversity!"
"Oh, you are an excellent young man," cries Mrs Miller:--"Yes, indeed, poor creature! he hath ventured everything.--If he had not had one of the best of constitutions, it must have killed him."
"Cousin," cries the man, who had now pretty well recovered himself, "this is the angel from heaven whom I meant. This is he to whom, before I saw you, I owed the preservation of my Peggy. He it was to whose generosity every comfort, every support which I have procured for her, was owing. He is, indeed, the worthiest, bravest, noblest; of all human beings. O cousin, I have obligations to this gentleman of such a nature!"
"Mention nothing of obligations," cries Jones eagerly; "not a word, I insist upon it, not a word" (meaning, I suppose, that he would not have him betray the affair of the robbery to any person). "If, by the trifle you have received from me, I have preserved a whole family, sure pleasure was never bought so cheap."
"Oh, sir!" cries the man, "I wish you could this instant see my house. If any person had ever a right to the pleasure you mention, I am convinced it is yourself. My cousin tells me she acquainted you with the distress in which she found us. That, sir, is all greatly removed, and chiefly by your goodness.----My children have now a bed to lie on----and they have----they have----eternal blessings reward you for it!----they have bread to eat. My little boy is recovered; my wife is out of danger, and I am happy. All, all owing to you, sir, and to my cousin here, one of the best of women. Indeed, sir, I must see you at my house.--Indeed my wife must see you, and thank you.--My children too must express their gratitude.----Indeed, sir, they are not without a sense of their obligation; but what is my feeling when I reflect to whom I owe that they are now capable of expressing their gratitude.----Oh, sir, the little hearts which you have warmed had now been cold as ice without your assistance."
Here Jones attempted to prevent the poor man from proceeding; but indeed the overflowing of his own heart would of itself have stopped his words. And now Mrs Miller likewise began to pour forth thanksgivings, as well in her own name, as in that of her cousin, and concluded with saying, "She doubted not but such goodness would meet a glorious reward."
Jones answered, "He had been sufficiently rewarded already. Your cousin's account, madam," said he, "hath given me a sensation more pleasing than I have ever known. He must be a wretch who is unmoved at hearing such a story; how transporting then must be the thought of having happily acted a part in this scene! If there are men who cannot feel the delight of giving happiness to others, I sincerely pity them, as they are incapable of tasting what is, in my opinion, a greater honour, a higher interest, and a sweeter pleasure than the ambitious, the avaricious, or the voluptuous man can ever obtain."
The hour of appointment being now come, Jones was forced to take a hasty leave, but not before he had heartily shaken his friend by the hand, and desired to see him again as soon as possible; promising that he would himself take the first opportunity of visiting him at his own house. He then stept into his chair, and proceeded to Lady Bellaston's, greatly exulting in the happiness which he had procured to this poor family; nor could he forbear reflecting, without horror, on the dreadful consequences which must have attended them, had he listened rather to the voice of strict justice than to that of mercy, when he was attacked on the high road.
Mrs Miller sung forth the praises of Jones during the whole evening, in which Mr Anderson, while he stayed, so passionately accompanied her, that he was often on the very point of mentioning the circumstance of the robbery. However, he luckily recollected himself, and avoided an indiscretion which would have been so much the greater, as he knew Mrs Miller to be extremely strict and nice in her principles. He was likewise well apprized of the loquacity of this lady; and yet such was his gratitude, that it had almost got the better both of discretion and shame, and made him publish that which would have defamed his own character, rather than omit any circumstances which might do the fullest honour to his benefactor.Next